Local nonprofit offers military therapy services

By Kristina Houck

An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide in the United States every day, according to a 2012 Department of Veterans Affairs study. Nevertheless, a number of VA health facilities face allegations of poor treatment of veterans, including fraudulent record-keeping that covered up excessive and sometimes deadly waiting times at some facilities.

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, a local clinic is emphasizing its military therapy services.

Alliant Couple and Family Clinic provides more than 125 San Diego couples and families low-fee therapy sessions per month. Of the families the nonprofit organization serves, nearly 70 percent are active and veteran military families.

“It feels very rewarding,” said Dr. Lisa Palmer-Olsen, clinic co-founder and director. “A lot of these people would otherwise fall through the cracks.

“They would take a test when they get back from their deployment saying that they’re fine or maybe be referred for an individual assessment, but there’s no way they would get the immediate kind of care that we can give them when they walk in the door for their relationships.”

Founded in 2010, Alliant Couple and Family Clinic is a training clinic for Alliant International University students to become trained in the EFT model of therapy.

Having both served in the U.S. Marines, Alliant International University postdoctoral candidates and clinic trainees, Joe Grady and Patrick Hunt, know firsthand the hardships military members face when they transition into civilian life.

In 2005, Grady lost his right arm and several of his fellow infantrymen after one accidental step on an IED. After two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, Hunt returned home with terrifying memories.

With their backgrounds, Grady and Hunt can relate to the clinic’s military clients on a unique level.

“When you’re in the military, it’s a different culture, but also a different way of being and dealing,” said Hunt. The 33-year-old Miami native enlisted in the Marines when he was 18. “We know exactly what it is to be a Marine in combat situations. We know what it’s like to have those difficult conversations. We don’t come from a strictly therapeutic standpoint, but also from an experiential standpoint.”

“It’s instant credibility with that person,” added 28-year-old Grady, a San Diego native, who joined the Marines when he was 18. “It’s a culture that the civilian world doesn’t entirely know.”

The facility specializes in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) sessions for military and all clients in distressed relationships. The clinic is only one of 12 centers in the nation with certified EFT expertise.

“The men and women who are coming back from combat areas are extremely isolated,” Palmer-Olsen said. “We don’t want to go and just treat them into further isolation.

“We really need to un-isolate these people that are coming back. Part of doing that is working with the entire family, not just working with the individual. It’s a game changer when it comes to mental health.”

“If you can get the couple or the family in the room, we can create change that’s longer lasting and we can create change quicker,” Grady added. “That individual walks out of your office into a family, a community, a variety of situations where they’re interacting with people around them. If we can create support for them, that can be extremely beneficial.”

Alliant Couple and Family Clinic is located at 10065 Old Grove Road, Suite 102, in San Diego.

For more information about Alliant Couple and Family Clinic, call 858-547-9803 or visit To support the clinic’s therapy sessions for active and veteran military personnel and their families, donate at the center’s website. Donations are 100 percent tax-deductible.